Continuing Voilestøl’s WWII mission

Granddaughters launch Kickstarter campaign to translate a Norwegian underground newspaper

Image courtesy of Kerstin Ketteman Images from and of the material to be translated if the Kickstarter campaign is successful.

Image courtesy of Kerstin Ketteman
Images from and of the material to be translated if the Kickstarter campaign is successful.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

During World War II, Norwegian political prisoner Olav Voilestøl wanted to assist the underground resistance movement any way he could. But at almost 40 years, he felt he was too old to take up armed resistance against the Germans. He did have some valuable assets, though: a shortwave radio and a whole lot of bravery.

Using this radio, Voilestøl was able to listen to BBC and receive reports from the allied forces. With this information, he helped to publish an underground newspaper and inform his fellow Norwegians of what was really happening around the world.

Of course, this radio was illegal during the occupation, and his operation required a lot of courage and caution; if the Germans found it, he would be executed. At one point, Voilestøl’s wife learned that an informant had named her husband and made it home just in time to relocate the radio to a nearby church.

Although Voilestøl’s participation in the underground newspaper was certainly risky, history proves that such efforts did indeed advance the resistance movement. According to some historians, the Germans spent so much time trying to suppress these underground newspapers and convince the Norwegians of Hitler’s success that they weakened their own forces.

Image courtesy of Kerstin Ketteman

Image courtesy of Kerstin Ketteman

Voilestøl must have known the value of the documents from the start because he kept them safe for the remainder of his life. After he passed away in 1984, his wife held on to the manuscripts until her passing in 2014. The original documents, along with some WWII sketches and political cartoons, were then passed on to their two granddaughters.

One of the inheritors is Kerstin Ketteman, a professional freelance translator who has now taken on the monumental mission of translating these documents into English. Ketteman requires funding to pursue this project, however, as she expects the translation to take eight to 12 weeks. Therefore, Ketteman and her sister have created a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3,000 by October 3. Anyone contributing $25 or more will receive a PDF version of the completed translation. For a $5 donation, contributors are given a PDF version of WWII political cartoons and sketches. This is an all-or-nothing deal, meaning that the project will only move forward if the goal is met.

On the opportunity to work with the same documents her grandfather originally published, Ketteman shares: “It feels like an honor. I am so grateful that aside from the courage he showed in risking his life to publish the newspaper, he was very meticulous and organized all these materials and kept them for posterity.”

This is a translated excerpt of an underground newspaper from occupied Norway (April 9, 1940–May 8, 1945). My grandfather, Olav Voilestøl, had a shortwave radio, which was illegal at the time. Along with others in the resistance movement he published and distributed news about the progress of allied forces. Eventually, he was arrested and sent to a prison camp. He survived this experience, but it had a lifelong impact on him.

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The Pacific: The Americans are continuing their work to clear out remaining Japanese forces that have taken cover in the jungle. On New Guinea, the Australians are preparing for a final storm attack to destroy the few remaining Japanese forces, with only a short strip of land left.

Burma: The English have continued to make progress without meeting any significant resistance. Nor have English planes that are bombing Japanese positions and depots been met with any resistance

Germany: On Sunday night the Ruhr district was visited by a large number of allied bomber planes. They caused extensive damage. Massive American air formations were led by 300 fighter planes that passed over towns in Northern France and Holland. They hit their targets, causing significant damage. Many of the German fighter planes that were launched in defense were shot down.

We ask our readers to observe the utmost discretion. Do not show this to anyone other than someone you can trust completely. Remember that if the man next to you is caught, it will soon be your turn.

By translating the newspaper manuscripts, Ketteman will share their value and knowledge with a wider audience, and in a way, continue her grandfather’s mission.

“Norway today is in many ways quite different from the 1940’s, obviously in terms of wealth and stability. However because Norway is considered a relatively small country geographically, I think increasing international awareness of its history is definitely a continuation of his mission to extend a beneficial contribution to Norway. It would have been a real shame if these papers had been lost, so I do feel that they make up a valuable contribution to our historical records from World War II.” comments Ketteman on the significance of this project.

She also believes that these texts demonstrate a great deal about the Norwegian people: “The newspapers bring out how Norwegians recognized that their fate as a country to a great extent was impacted globally by how well the allied forces were doing, not only in other parts of Europe, but also in faraway places like North Africa and The Philippines. The Norwegian people did not accept being isolated. They cared deeply about their sovereignty and their position in the international community.”

If the campaign is successful, Ketteman plans to publish the translations and donate the original documents with the English translation to the collection of WWII documents at Harvard University, all while continuing her grandfather’s mission.

To support this project, visit by October 3.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 25, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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